Devin Booker led the way as the high-flying Phoenix Suns took down the Charlotte Hornets 101-97 in overtime.

Booker posted 35 points to fuel the Suns, who outlasted the Hornets in Charlotte in Sunday's NBA action.

Chris Paul scored 16 points for the Suns and team-mate DeAndre Ayton added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

The Suns, who have won three of their last four games, are second in the Western Conference.

Charlotte had their three-game winning streak snapped, despite big performances from Devonte' Graham (30 points), Terry Rozier (22 points and 10 rebounds) and Miles Bridges (18 points and 12 rebounds).

 

Lakers build momentum

On the day the Lakers acquired Andre Drummond after he cleared waivers, the NBA champions topped the struggling Orlando Magic 96-93 in the absence of injured superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers have now won back-to-back games, having dropped four straight. Dennis Schroder put up 24 points, while Kyle Kuzma contributed 21 points and 11 rebounds. There were also double-doubles for Montrezl Harrell (18 points and 11 rebounds) and Markieff Morris (12 points and 11 rebounds).

 

Trent struggles in Raptors debut

After being traded by the Portland Trail Blazers to the Toronto Raptors on Thursday's deadline, Gary Trent Jr. made his debut against his former team. Trent, however, was just two-of-10 from the field and one-of-five from three-point range for six points in Toronto's 122-117 loss to Portland.

P.J. Washington endured a rough night for the Hornets. While he collected 12 rebounds in 44 minutes, the power forward was scoreless. Washington finished 0-of-seven from the field, while he missed all four of his efforts from beyond the arc.

 

Gordon slam!

Acquired from the Magic prior to the deadline, Aaron Gordon connected with Nikola Jokic for his first dunk for the Denver Nuggets in the opening quarter. Denver beat the Atlanta Hawks 126-102.

 

Sunday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 96-93 Orlando Magic
Phoenix Suns 101-97 Charlotte Hornets (OT)
Denver Nuggets 126-102 Atlanta Hawks
Portland Trail Blazers 122-117 Toronto Raptors

 

Bucks at Clippers

The slumping Milwaukee Bucks (29-16) will visit the in-form Los Angeles Clippers (31-16) on Monday. Milwaukee have dropped back-to-back games, while the Clippers have won five in a row.

James Harden returned from neck soreness with a 44-point haul to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 113-111 win over the Detroit Pistons in the NBA on Friday.

As well as his personal Nets high 44 points, which included four three-pointers, Harden had 14 rebounds and eight assists.

Harden set up Blake Griffin for an alley-oop as the new recruit contributed 17 points against his former side.

Detroit had an 11-0 final-quarter stretch, led by back-to-back three-pointers from Frank Jackson, to ensure a tense finale.

But Cory Joseph missed a point-blank look to send the game to overtime on the buzzer, enabling Brooklyn to improve to 31-15.

The Los Angeles Lakers snapped their losing run without LeBron James, with a 100-86 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Montrezl Harrell starred off the bench with a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds as they steadied to 29-17 record.

Zion puts up career-best haul in defeat

Former number one draft pick Zion Williamson put in a huge display with a career-high 39 points, going 16-of-19 from the field, 10 rebounds and five assists, but it was not enough as the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Denver Nuggets 113-108.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic underlined his MVP credentials with 37 points, six rebounds and nine assists. He scored 22 of his 37 in the second half.

The Milwaukee Bucks were toppled by the Boston Celtics 122-114, with forward Jayson Tatum scoring 34 points and guard Marcus Smart adding 23. Tatum had an injury scare but played on.

Reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was quiet by his standards with only 16 points, while he had eight rebounds and five assists. The Celtics stay in the playoffs hunt with a 22-23 record, while the Bucks slip to 29-15 in third in the East.

Donovan Mitchell had 35 points along with five rebounds and six assists as the top-of-the-table Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 117-114 to secure their fourth straight win.

The Portland Trail Blazers edged the Orlando Magic 112-105 without Damian Lillard, with CJ McCollum starring with 22 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Chris Paul got the edge over Kyle Lowry as the Phoenix Suns won 104-100 at the Toronto Raptors. Paul had 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Heat slide to sixth straight loss

The Miami Heat may have got busy on NBA trade deadline with the addition of Victor Oladipo but he did not play as they lost their sixth straight, going down 110-105 to the Charlotte Hornets.

 

Timberwolves' 22-0 hot streak

The Minnesota Timberwolves' 22-0 run to secure their 107-101 win over the struggling Houston Rockets was the first 22-0 (or better) game-ending run since the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1998-99 season.

 

Friday's results

Brooklyn Nets 113-111 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 122-114 Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns 104-100 Toronto Raptors
Denver Nuggets 113-108 New Orleans Pelicans
Minnesota Timberwolves 107-101 Houston Rockets
Portland Trail Blazers 112-105 Orlando Magic
Charlotte Hornets 110-105 Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers 109-94 Dallas Mavericks
Utah Jazz 117-114 Memphis Grizzlies
Atlanta Hawks 124-108 Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers 100-86 Cleveland Cavaliers

 

76ers at Clippers

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia 76ers (32-13) visit the Los Angeles Clippers (30-16), who are third in the West, on Saturday.

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers heaped further misery on the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers following a 109-101 win in the NBA on Thursday.

Defending champions the Lakers lost their fourth consecutive game in the absence of injured stars LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (calf) as the 76ers stayed hot.

Danny Green haunted his former team in Los Angeles to guide the in-form 76ers to their fourth successive victory.

Green and Dwight Howard – who tasted success with the Lakers last season before both joined the 76ers – received their championship rings pre-game at Staples Center.

Green hit eight of 12 three-pointers – more than any Lakers player has made this season – for a game-high 28 points, while Howard was ejected at the end of the opening quarter.

Kyle Kuzma (25 points) and Dennis Schroder (20 points and 11 assists) led the slumping the Lakers, who suffered their sixth straight home defeat to the 76ers.

 

Fox has night to remember

De'Aaron Fox posted a career-high 44 points to lead the Sacramento Kings to a crushing 141-119 win against the Golden State Warriors. He was 16-of-22 from the field, to go with seven assists and three steals against the Stephen Curry-less Warriors. Tyrese Haliburton added 21 points with a career-high six three-pointers as Richaun Holmes contributed a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Paul George's double-double (24 points and 13 rebounds) helped the Los Angeles Clippers top the San Antonio Spurs 98-85 in the absence of injured star Kawhi Leonard (foot). Ivica Zubac (10 points and 13 rebounds) and Terance Mann (10 points and 12 rebounds) also had double-doubles, while Reggie Jackson top-scored with 28 points.

The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Miami Heat 125-122 behind C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard. McCollum put up 35 points, while Lillard had 22 of his own away to the Heat. Enes Kanter also finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds as veteran Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points off the bench.

 

Westbrook struggles from the field

Russell Westbrook might have finished just shy of a triple-double (13 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists) but he was far from his best shooting. The former MVP was just three-of-15 from the field. Westbrook also missed all five of his attempts from beyond the arc, while tallying eight turnovers as the New York Knicks stormed back to trump the Washington Wizards 106-102.

 

The windmill!

There was not much to celebrate for the Warriors on Thursday. But Juan Toscano-Anderson's slam after stealing the ball provided a highlight on the road in Sacramento.

 

Thursday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 Los Angeles Lakers
Portland Trail Blazers 125-122 Miami Heat
New York Knicks 106-102 Washington Wizards
Los Angeles Clippers 98-85 San Antonio Spurs
Sacramento Kings 141-119 Golden State Warriors

 

Nets at Pistons

The Brooklyn Nets (30-15) will look to keep pace with the 76ers in the east when they visit the lowly Detroit Pistons (12-31) on Friday.

A late trade for Toronto Raptors great Kyle Lowry did not materialise on Thursday for either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Miami Heat, who signed Victor Oladipo.

The trade deadline passed with Lowry, widely considered the greatest player in Toronto's history, still on the Raptors.

The point guard, who turned 35 on Thursday, said it felt "weird" walking off the court on Wednesday knowing it might be his last appearance for the team.

Lowry played a part in the Raptors snapping a nine-game losing run against the Denver Nuggets, but links to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Lakers and the Heat had persisted in the days leading up to the deadline.

Reports on Thursday continued to detail interest from defending champions LA, in need of reinforcements amid injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James, and their 2020 Finals opponents Miami.

But The Athletic's Shams Charania said Toronto were struggling to agree terms with either team as they demanded a young guard in return.

The Lakers reportedly offered Dennis Schroder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope but withheld Talen Horton-Tucker, while the Heat included Duncan Robinson but not Tyler Herro.

It meant the deadline ticked by before ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Lowry would not be moving.

Six-time All-Star Lowry is on an expiring contract but will now see that deal out before heading for free agency, having been with the Raptors since a 2012 trade from the Houston Rockets.

He has averaged 17.6 points, 7.1 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals in that time and started all 24 playoff games in 2018-19, scoring 15.0 points, as Toronto won their first NBA title.

The failure to secure a trade for Lowry meant Toronto lost only one key man on Thursday as sixth-year wing Norman Powell left for the Portland Trail Blazers in the middle of his most prolific season in the NBA.

The 27-year-old, who has a career 9.9 points, has averaged 19.6 per game in 2020-21 despite the team's struggles, establishing himself as a regular starter for the first time.

Powell is shooting 43.9 per cent from three, ranking 10th in the NBA and third among those with 200 or more attempts from beyond the arc.

Gary Trent Jr, moving in the opposite direction, is also enjoying a career year in his third campaign, making the most of increased opportunities amid CJ McCollum's injury woes for the Blazers to score 15.0 points in 30.8 minutes.

Meanwhile, Miami focused their attention on Oladipo, who found a third team of the season.

The 28-year-old guard started the year with the Indiana Pacers before he was moved to the Rockets as they dealt James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.

With Houston loading up on draft picks and setting themselves up for a lottery selection in a difficult year, though, Oladipo - scoring 21.2 points per game - was traded again.

The Heat secured support for Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in another title push and in return offered Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a draft swap to the Rockets, The Athletic said.

The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers continue to go toe-to-toe in the Eastern Conference after both championship hopefuls won in the NBA on Tuesday.

James Harden led the way with a double-double as the star-studded Nets topped the Portland Trail Blazers 116-112.

In the absence of fellow superstars Kyrie Irving (personal matter) and Kevin Durant (hamstring), Harden posted 25 points and a career high-tying 17 assists to fuel the short-handed Nets in Portland.

Jeff Green finished with 20 points – 15 in the first half – Nicolas Claxton put up 16 of his own, while Blake Griffin had eight points, five rebounds and two steals in his second Nets appearance.

Enes Kanter scored 19 points and collected 19 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who also had 22 points from All-Star Damian Lillard.

The Nets (30-14) remain within a game of the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers (31-13) after they held on to beat the Golden State Warriors 108-98.

Behind Tobias Harris' 25 points and 13 rebounds and Ben Simmons' 22 points, the 76ers earned their fifth consecutive road victory – the team's longest winning streak away from home since winning seven straight in 2018.

The Warriors – without star Stephen Curry (back) – threatened to complete a stunning comeback, having been outscored 35-17 at the end of the opening quarter, while they trailed by more than 20 points before half-time.

 

Zion makes history

Zion Williamson helped the New Orleans Pelicans top the slumping Los Angeles Lakers 128-111. The 20-year-old's 27 points and nine rebounds saw him become the first NBA player younger than 21 to score at least 20 points in 21 consecutive games. Pelicans team-mate Brandon Ingram posted a season-high 36 points.

MVP candidate Nikola Jokic had his 12th triple-double of the season as the Denver Nuggets beat the Orlando Magic 110-99. Jokic posted 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists for a franchise-best 53rd career triple-double. Only Washington's Russell Westbrook (14) has more triple-doubles this season.

It is almost impossible to replace Joel Embiid, but Tony Bradley stepped up in a big way for the 76ers. The 23-year-old was flawless against the Warriors, going eight-of-eight for 18 points and 11 rebounds. Bradley became the first 76ers player not to miss a shot in a game on a minimum eight attempts since Dikembe Mutombo in 2002.

All-Star Julius Randle finished with 37 points to lead the New York Knicks past the lowly Washington Wizards 131-113.

 

Lakers feeling absence of star duo

The Lakers – who came out of the All-Star break on a 4-0 run – are now 0-3 since LeBron James suffered an ankle injury, with fellow star Anthony Davis (calf) also sidelined.

Tyler Herro headlined the Miami Heat's woes after last season's NBA Finals participants lost 110-100 at home to the Phoenix Suns. Herro was three-of-11 from the field, while he was just one-of-six from three-point range for seven points in 26 minutes.

 

Robinson throws it down!

New York's Mitchell Robinson got up high for a powerful dunk in the second quarter against the Wizards.

 

Tuesday's results

Denver Nuggets 110-99 Orlando Magic
New York Knicks 131-113 Washington Wizards
New Orleans Pelicans 128-111 Los Angeles Lakers
Phoenix Suns 110-100 Miami Heat
Brooklyn Nets 116-112 Portland Trail Blazers
Philadelphia 76ers 108-98 Golden State Warriors

 

Nets at Jazz

It is back-to-back outings for the high-flying Nets (30-14), who travel to the NBA-leading Utah Jazz (31-11) on Wednesday.

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden has been cleared to face the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA.

Harden was listed as questionable for Tuesday's matchup against the Trail Blazers in Portland due to neck soreness.

Former MVP Harden appeared to hurt his neck during a collision with Garrison Mathews in Sunday's 113-106 win over the Washington Wizards.

But Harden will take to the court away to the Trail Blazers, while fellow stars Kyrie Irving (personal matter) and Kevin Durant (hamstring) are sidelined.

Harden was on the court for 39 minutes against the Wizards, the most for any Nets player. Prior to Sunday's victory, the former Houston Rockets star had featured for 40-plus minutes in four of the franchise's previous eights outings either side of the All-Star break. 

This season, Harden is averaging the most minutes in the NBA with 37.9, with Julius Randle of the New York Knicks next on 37.

Harden is averaging 25.3 points, a league-best 11.1 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game for the star-studded Nets this season.

He tops the list for most assists in the league in 2020-21 (410), while he ranks fifth for points/assists/rebounds averaged per game (44.4).

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden is questionable to face the Portland Trail Blazers due to neck soreness.

Harden appeared to hurt his neck during a collision with Garrison Mathews in Sunday's 113-106 NBA win over the Washington Wizards.

Now, Harden is in doubt for Tuesday's clash with the Trail Blazers in Portland, where the star-studded Nets will be without Kyrie Irving (personal matter) and Kevin Durant (hamstring).

After posting 26 points, eight assists and five rebounds, Harden told reporters: "I got hit in the jaw. My neck kind of twitched. I'll be all right.

"It's nothing. Get some treatment on it, get some rest and be ready to go the next game."

Harden was on the court for 39 minutes, the most for any Nets player. Prior to Sunday's win, the former Houston Rockets star had featured for 40-plus minutes in four of the franchise's previous eights outings either side of the All-Star break. 

This season, Harden is averaging the most minutes in the NBA with 37.9, with Julius Randle of the New York Knicks next on 37.

"I'm concerned about the minutes," Nets head coach Steve Nash said after beating the Wizards.

"I'm not sure what the answer is, though. He controls the game. He hasn't shot the ball well since the [All-Star] break, but he made three threes tonight.  

"He gets to the line. He makes assists, rebounds, steals. He's great around the basket. He had another great performance even if it wasn't necessarily a typical Harden game.  

"So it's hard to take him off the floor because he makes his team-mates better."

Harden is averaging 25.3 points, a league-best 11.1 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game for the Nets this season.

The former MVP tops the list for most assists in the league this season (410), while he ranks fifth for points/assists/rebounds averaged per game (44.4).

James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined to lead the star-studded Brooklyn Nets to a 113-106 victory over the Washington Wizards as Blake Griffin made his bow.

Harden posted 26 points and eight assists, while Irving had 28 points and seven rebounds to fuel the Nets in the NBA on Sunday.

The Wizards, who trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and 12 in the second, closed to 103-102 three minutes from the end in Brooklyn, where former All-Star Griffin debuted after his arrival from the Detroit Pistons earlier this month.

But Nicolas Claxton (16 points) stepped up with two dunks and some big plays down the stretch to lift the Nets past the Wizards.

Russell Westbrook finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists but the Wizards still lost on the road, where team-mate Rui Hachimura added 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Elsewhere, Zion Williamson joined Shaquille O'Neal (2000-01) as the only players in the shot-clock era to score 20-plus points on 50 per cent shooting or better in 20 consecutive games in a single season.

Williamson posted 30 points on nine-of-13 shooting from the field as the New Orleans Pelicans upstaged the Denver Nuggets 113-108.

Brandon Ingram also had 30 points for the Pelicans, while MVP candidate and Nuggets star Nikola Jokic (29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) registered his 52nd career triple-double and 11th of the season.

 

Paul reaches milestone

Chris Paul became the sixth player in NBA history to reach 10,000 career assists, joining John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson. Paul finished with 11 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in the Phoenix Suns' 111-94 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers, who were without injured stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Montrezl Harrell had 23 points and 10 rebounds for defending champions the Lakers.

The Dallas Mavericks routed the Portland Trail Blazers 132-92 behind Luka Doncic's 37 points. His 117 points across a three-game span are the second most in franchise history, only behind his 118 in a three-game period last month.

Collin Sexton scored 23 of his 36 points in the second half and Jarrett Allen (17 points and 15 rebounds) contributed a double-double as the Cleveland Cavaliers topped the slumping Toronto Raptors 116-105, condemning their opponents to an eighth consecutive loss.

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers earned their 15th straight win over the New York Knicks – a narrow 101-100 overtime success, dating back to December 2017. It is the longest active winning streak in the NBA by one team over another and the fourth longest run over a single opponent in franchise history.

 

Rockets can't stop the rot

The Houston Rockets suffered a franchise-record 20th consecutive defeat after going down 114-112 at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets' skid is tied for the ninth-worst in NBA history and the worst since the 76ers and their record-setting 28-game losing streak across the 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns.

The Pistons and Miami Heat both struggled from three-point range. Detroit were just 16 per cent (four of 25) in their 100-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls, while Miami were 24.3 per cent (nine of 37) in a 109-106 overtime defeat against the Indiana Pacers.

It was a forgettable night for Damian Lillard and the Blazers. All-Star Lillard (19 points) was just seven of 16 from the field, while he missed all seven of his three-point attempts. Portland team-mate C.J. McCollum (13 points) was not much better after going six-of-15 shooting and 0-of-five from beyond the arc in 24 minutes.

 

Griffin can still dunk

Much has been made about Griffin and his lack of dunks. Not since December 2019 had Griffin dunked in the NBA amid question marks over his troublesome knee and fitness. But that changed in his debut on Sunday. Griffin, who finished with two points in 15 minutes, dunked in the final quarter.

 

Sunday's results

Indiana Pacers 109-106 Miami Heat (OT)
Oklahoma City Thunder 114-112 Houston Rockets
New Orleans Pelicans 113-108 Denver Nuggets
Boston Celtics 112-96 Orlando Magic
Brooklyn Nets 113-106 Washington Wizards
Cleveland Cavaliers 116-105 Toronto Raptors
Chicago Bulls 100-86 Detroit Pistons
Philadelphia 76ers 101-1000 New York Knicks (OT)
Phoenix Suns 111-94 Los Angeles Lakers
Dallas Mavericks 132-92 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Pacers at Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks (27-14) will look to extend their winning streak to seven games when they host the Pacers (19-22) on Monday. Indiana have won back-to-back games.

Joel Embiid's injury last week appeared to clear a path for LeBron James to collect his fifth NBA MVP award.

Philadelphia 76ers big man Embiid - averaging 29.9 points and 11.5 rebounds, as well as 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals - had already missed seven games this season before he went down with a knee injury against the Washington Wizards.

But Los Angeles Lakers superstar James did not see his clear run at the league's top individual honour last long.

James, who has 25.9 points, 7.9 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game, has carried the Lakers in Anthony Davis' absence but faces his own spell on the sidelines after an ankle sprain on Saturday.

That setback, in a defeat to the Atlanta Hawks, means this year's two leading MVP contenders face an uphill task to remain in contention as they sit out a key stretch of the regular season.

Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets center, appears the man most likely to profit and has quickly been installed as the bookmakers' favourite.

But with several twists already in the race to succeed back-to-back winner Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jokic's standing is not yet safe.

With the help of Stats Perform data, we run through four potential winners ahead of Sunday's action - including Denver's 'Joker'.
 

NIKOLA JOKIC

The case against Jokic earlier in the season was his displays had not been able to lift the Nuggets into serious contention in the West. With 13 wins in their past 18 games to improve to 25-16, that is no longer the case.

While team-mate Jamal Murray has not been able to consistently perform at the standard he set in the 2019-20 playoffs - averaging 26.5 points in the 'bubble' but 21.1 this season - Jokic has taken his game to another level.

The Serbian's stat line for the year - 27.0 points, 8.6 assists, 11.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals - has never previously been achieved in league history, nor has any player in the past attempted at least 30 field goals across a season while shooting 56.6 per cent from the field, 41.6 per cent from three and 86.6 per cent of free throws.

This is an unprecedented campaign.

DAMIAN LILLARD

Tied with Denver at 25-16 in the West are the Portland Trail Blazers. Considering CJ McCollum has only played 16 games and Jusuf Nurkic 12, that is a quite remarkable achievement, led, of course, by Lillard.

Understandably, Lillard's usage rate is at a career-high 33 per cent, but he is making the most of those extra touches. Only Bradley Beal (32.5) has outperformed his 30.6 points per game - another career benchmark - and the Blazers star leads the league with 1,225 total points. Of those, 136 have come in 'clutch' situations, again putting Lillard at the top of the standings.

Taking a break from Portland's playoff push, Lillard even preserved enough energy to score 32 points in the All-Star Game, just ahead of Team LeBron team-mate and rival Stephen Curry (28). An MVP triumph would certainly see Portland's finest emerge from the shadow of the Golden State Warriors great.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO

Antetokounmpo beat James Harden to this award in 2018-19 and then LA's James last season, so a case of voter fatigue was always set to make him an unlikely winner for a third straight year, regardless of performances.

But with Embiid and James both hit by injuries, the 'Greek Freak' surely has to come into consideration. Once again, his numbers are seriously impressive.

The only man to outscore Lillard at the All-Star Game, putting up 35, Antetokounmpo is slightly down on last year's points (29.0 versus 29.5) and rebounds per game (11.7 versus 13.6) but has improved in all of the other key metrics with 6.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks.

The Milwaukee Bucks forward should be in the picture to retain both his MVP and Defensive Player of the Year titles.

JAMES HARDEN

Surely voters will not reward Harden in the year he forced his way out of the Houston Rockets? On performances alone, though, he deserves to be in the conversation.

The 2017-18 winner is not contributing the same number of points for the Brooklyn Nets as he was in Houston, but then his usage is down to 28.7 per cent for the year (28.1 in Brooklyn), by far the lowest it has been since the statistic was first tracked in 2014-15.

And Harden, still scoring an impressive 25.4 points since joining the Nets, is more than making up for this slight decline elsewhere.

So far the most prominent member of the team's 'big three', with Kevin Durant too often injured and Kyrie Irving absent for a spell, Harden leads the league in 2020-21 for assists (11.2) and is second for triple-doubles (11), making him an unpopular but worthy candidate.

The Brooklyn Nets' six-game winning streak came to a grinding halt with a 121-113 loss to the lowly Orlando Magic, despite the return of Kyrie Irving after groin soreness.

The Magic were coming into the match on a nine-game losing streak, but jumped out of the blocks with Aaron Gordon scoring 21 points in the first half.

Orlando led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter before the Nets closed to trail by only two at the main break, led by Irving, who finished with a game-high 43 points, six rebounds and four assists.

James Harden's output was slightly down, finishing with 19 points, four rebounds and nine assists as Orlando raced away again in the third.

Gordon finished with a season-high 38 points, Evan Fournier scored 31, while center Nikola Vucevic had 22 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists as the Magic pulled off an upset.

The Utah Jazz returned to the winners' list with a thrilling 115-112 triumph over the Toronto Raptors, who have now lost seven in a row.

The Jazz had lost four of six coming into the match, but found some form, led by Donovan Mitchell with 31 points and five rebounds, the star pinching the lead late after the Raptors were up by five with 90 seconds to go.

Pascal Siakam put up a three-point attempt on the buzzer which cruelly rimmed out.

Blazers do it again, Wiggins' season high

CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard produced another special performance as the Portland Trail Blazers came from behind again to win their third straight game, 125-119 over the Dallas Mavericks.

McCollum finished with 32 points, including seven three-pointers, while Lillard had 31 points along with six assists as Portland scored 32 points to 21 in the last to win. The victory was also Portland's Terry Stotts' 500th as head coach.

Andrew Wiggins produced a season-high 40 points, including six three-pointers, eight rebounds and four steals as the Golden State Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies 116-103.

Nikola Jokic sparkled with 34 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists as the Denver Nuggets edged the Chicago Bulls in overtime 131-127. Jamal Murray also scored 34 for Denver.

Guard Malcolm Brogdon scored 27 points as the Indiana Pacers piled on the points in a 137-110 win over the Miami Heat.

Mason Plumlee had 16 rebounds while Frank Jackson scored 23 points as the struggling Detroit Pistons won back-to-back games, 113-100 over the Houston Rockets, who have lost 19 in a row.

 

Melo makes history

Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, 36, scored 18 points in Portland's win but he also brought up the milestone of 27,000 NBA points, becoming only the 11th player to reach the figure.

Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook made history in a shock 131-122 win over the NBA-leading Utah Jazz.

Westbrook posted 35 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists for his 13th triple-double of the season to guide the struggling Wizards past the high-flying Jazz on Thursday.

Former MVP Westbrook became the first player in franchise history to record at least 35 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a game as the Wizards snapped a five-game losing streak.

Wizards team-mate Bradley Beal had a game-high 43 points at home to the Jazz, who were led by Donovan Mitchell's season-high 42 points.

Joe Ingles added 34 points for the Jazz, who still have the league's best record at 29-11 despite the loss.

LeBron James flexed his muscles with 37 points as defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-105.

James also had eight rebounds and six assists to help the Lakers to their fourth straight win since the All-Star break – Dennis Schroder chipped in with 22 points of his own.

Rookie of the Year contender LaMelo Ball recorded a team-high 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Hornets in his first meeting against James in Los Angeles.

 

Edwards sets franchise record, Randle stays hot

It was an unforgettable outing for Anthony Edwards, who posted a career-high 42 points in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 123-119 win at the Phoenix Suns. It set the record for most points by a rookie in franchise history, eclipsing Zach LaVine's 37 in 2015. Timberwolves team-mate Karl-Anthony Towns also had 41 points and 10 rebounds in a monster performance. Devin Booker put up 35 points for the Suns, but it was not enough.

Julius Randle had 18 points, 17 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the New York Knicks past the Orlando Magic 94-93. His third triple-double of the season saw the All-Star become the first Knicks player with three-plus triple-doubles in a season since Michael Ray Richardson (seven) in 1981-82.

Damian Lillard followed up his season-high 50 points with 36 in the Portland Trail Blazers' 101-93 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans. Fellow All-Star Zion Williamson recorded a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans.

The Atlanta Hawks soared to their seventh straight win thanks to a 116-93 success against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Thunder struggle from the floor

The Thunder went down to the Hawks behind a poor shooting display. Oklahoma City were at just 36.2 per cent from the field, compared to Atlanta's 54.0 per cent. Aleksej Pokusevski finished two-for-11 from the floor, while missing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc for four points. Veteran Al Horford (11 points) was three of 13.

C.J. McCollum struggled in Portland's win. He was just three-of-16 shooting for 11 points in 21 minutes. He also made three of six three-pointers at home to the Pelicans.

 

LeBron says no!

James was at his brilliant best at both ends of the floor, denying the Hornets with a block late in the fourth quarter.

 

Thursday's results

Washington Wizards 131-122 Utah Jazz
Atlanta Hawks 116-93 Oklahoma City Thunder
New York Knicks 94-93 Orlando Magic
Minnesota Timberwolves 123-119 Phoenix Suns
Portland Trail Blazers 101-93 New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Lakers 116-105 Charlotte Hornets

 

Nets at Magic

The red-hot Brooklyn Nets (28-13) will put their six-game winning streak on the line when they visit the struggling Magic (13-27) on Friday.

Damian Lillard described the process required to become a lethal shooter after scoring a season-high 50 points, with the Portland Trail Blazers star lauding Stephen Curry as the greatest in the NBA.

Lillard's haul included 20 in the final quarter as Portland secured a stunning 125-124 comeback victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, having been 17 points behind in the fourth.

The Pelicans were inspired by Lillard's glorious display as he added 10 assists and six rebounds, finishing 18 of 18 from free-throws.

Lillard is now tied with LeBron James in seventh for all-time most 50-point NBA games, while he became only the fourth player to have racked up at least 16,000 points and dished out at least 4,000 assists in their first nine seasons.

Asked by the TNT post-match team how he became such a brilliant shooter, Lillard emphasised the work ethic needed and singled out Golden State Warriors hero Curry as the best in the business.

"It's just putting a lot of time into it," he said.

"We got some great shooters in our league. Obviously we think of Steph Curry first when we think of shooters, the greatest shooter to ever play in our league.

"He'll tell you the same thing, that it's a lot of reps. Whether people are watching or whether you get credit for it or not, you put the time in and you do it at a game pace, you do it with focus, you do it where you hold yourself to a certain standard.

"You make 10 in a row at each spot at the end of your workout when you're tired and you probably don't want to do it, it's things like that over and over again over the years.

"You get better from the reps, but more so than physically you get better mentally and more confident in it because you've done it so often and you've done it when you're tired, you've done it when you didn't want to.

"Then in the moments – whether it's first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, a tough shot, an easy shot – you've got the ultimate confidence that it's going to go in.  

"I think confidence is the biggest thing for shooters, right next to just getting the reps in and knowing in your heart that you didn't cheat it, you put the time in and you deserved to make those shots and you expect that result."

The win improved Portland's record to 23-16 as they remain firmly in playoff contention, while the Pelicans slipped to 17-23, despite Lonzo Ball's career-high 17 assists.

Damian Lillard scored a season-high 50 points, including 20 in the last quarter, as the Portland Trail Blazers produced a remarkable comeback to snatch a last-gasp 125-124 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

The Pelicans led by 17 points late in the third term and Brandon Ingram had the chance to ice the game late on, before missing two free-throws as Portland snatched victory.

Lillard was the catalyst with his 20 final-quarter points, totalling 50 for the game, along with 10 assists and six rebounds. He also finished with six three-pointers and 18 of 18 free-throws.

He coolly scored two free-throws after Nickeil Alexander-Walker's costly fumble turned over possession. Zion Williamson had one last chance to steal victory but missed from a good close look.

The result improved Portland's record to 23-16 as they stay firmly in playoff contention while the Pelicans slipped to 17-23, despite Lonzo Ball's career-high 17 assists.

Lillard is now tied with LeBron James in seventh for all-time most 50-point NBA games.

Meanwhile, James had the 99th triple-double of his career with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, while Montrezl Harrell was equal top scorer for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 137-121 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Smooth Jazz back among winners

Rudy Gobert scored 11 of his 16 points in the final period as the Utah Jazz bounced back from their loss to the Golden State Warriors with a 117-109 win over the Boston Celtics.

Gobert, who also had 12 rebounds, was well supported by Donovan Mitchell (21 points and five assists) and impressive sixth man Jordan Clarkson (20 points and three assists) as the Jazz stormed home to edge past Boston.

Without Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris stepped up for the Philadelphia 76ers with 30 points in a thrilling 99-96 triumph over the New York Knicks.

Ben Simmons had 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the 76ers, who trailed by nine at the final change before a dominant fourth quarter.

Jimmy Butler starred with 28 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as the in-form Miami Heat made it five wins in a row with a 113-98 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Miami center Bam Adebayo also returned from injury with 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Nate McMillan is yet to lose as head coach at the resurgent Atlanta Hawks, who claimed their sixth consecutive win, beating the Houston Rockets 119-107, led by Danilo Gallinari with 29 points.

 

No lift-off as Rockets grounded

While Atlanta have turned their season around with a coaching change, Houston have now lost 17 in a row. Stephen Silas is left scratching his head, with his side going from 11-10 to 11-27.

 

Big blocks

There were some huge blocks on Tuesday but 76ers veteran Dwight Howard stole the show early in the fourth, putting Julius Randle on the floor with an emphatic swat.

 

Tuesday's results

Utah Jazz 117-109 Boston Celtics
Miami Heat 113-98 Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls 123-102 Oklahoma City Thunder
Atlanta Hawks 119-107 Houston Rockets
Philadelphia 76ers 99-96 New York Knicks
Portland Trail Blazers 125-124 New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Lakers 137-121 Minnesota Timberwolves

 

Bucks at 76ers

The 76ers, without the injured Embiid, take on Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks in a blockbuster clash on Wednesday.

Draymond Green posted his 26th career triple-double and Stephen Curry scored 32 points as the Golden State Warriors took down the NBA-leading Utah Jazz 131-119.

Green dominated in San Francisco, where the three-time NBA champion had 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to help the Warriors snap their four-game losing streak on Sunday.

The Warriors are 25-1 when Green has a triple-double – the 96.2 win percentage is the highest by any player in NBA history with 10-plus triple-doubles.

Birthday boy Curry nailed six three-pointers to go with nine assists at home to the Jazz, while Andrew Wiggins added a season-high 28 points.

The Warriors triumphed despite Rudy Gobert's 24 points and career-high 28 rebounds (also a franchise high) as fellow All-Stars Donovan Mitchell (24 points) and Mike Conley (23 points) made solid contributions.

Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, meanwhile, combined to lead the New Orleans Pelicans past the Los Angeles Clippers 135-115.

The Pelicans stunned the Clippers behind Williamson (27 points) and Ingram (23 points) in New Orleans, where Kawhi Leonard had 23 points for the visitors.

 

Perfect Thybulle

No Joel Embiid? No worries for the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers, who crushed the San Antonio Spurs 134-99. While Ben Simmons returned from an enforced absence due to coronavirus tracing, Matisse Thybulle dazzled in Philadelphia. He was four-of-four shooting from the field, while he made both of his three-point attempts for 10 points in 17 minutes off the bench. Tobias Harris posted a team-high 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Seth Curry had 21 points, including three triples, while Danny Green made four of seven shots from beyond the arc. The 76ers won their fifth straight game as they welcomed a limited number of fans back to Wells Fargo Center.

It was a career-high night for Anthony Edwards, who registered 34 points to help the Minnesota Timberwolves top the Portland Trail Blazers 114-112. Portland lost despite a game-high 38 points from All-Star Damian Lillard.

Norman Powell had 32 points, but the Toronto Raptors still lost 118-95 away to the Chicago Bulls, who were fuelled by a career-best 23 points from rookie Patrick Williams.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (30 points) and Aleksej Pokusevski (23 points and 10 rebounds) inspired the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 128-122 win against the Memphis Grizzlies. The 19-year-old Pokusevski became the youngest player in Thunder history to score 20-plus points. He also became the second youngest player in league history to score five three-pointers, behind only LeBron James.

 

No magic for free-falling Orlando

All-Star center Nikola Vucevic put up 38 points, including 17 in the third quarter, and 10 rebounds for his 26th double-double but not even that was enough for the slumping Orlando Magic. They lost 102-97 – their eighth consecutive defeat.

Zach LaVine has been red-hot for the Bulls this season, but the All-Star was far from his best in the team's win. He was just four-of-10 shooting, while making just one of his five three-point attempts for 15 points in 34 minutes.

The less said about San Antonio's performance, the better. Gregg Popovich's Spurs were just four-of-21 from beyond the arc – shooting at 19 per cent against the 76ers, who were 51.7 per cent when it came to three-pointers.

 

Tomahawk slam!

Jaxson Hayes produced a memorable moment for the Pelicans. His season-high 17 points included a powerful dunk over Reggie Jackson in the third quarter.

 

Sunday's results

Oklahoma City Thunder 128-122 Memphis Grizzlies
Golden State Warriors 131-119 Utah Jazz
Philadelphia 76ers 134-99 San Antonio Spurs
Miami Heat 102-97 Orlando Magic
Atlanta Hawks 100-82 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 134-107 Houston Rockets
Minnesota Timberwolves 114-112 Portland Trail Blazers
New Orleans Pelicans XXX-XXX Los Angeles Clippers
Chicago Bulls XX-XX Toronto Raptors

 

Knicks at Nets

Bragging rights will be on the line when the star-studded Brooklyn Nets (26-13) host city rivals the New York Knicks (20-19) on Monday. James' Los Angeles Lakers (25-13) are also in action against the Warriors (20-19).

Carmelo Anthony insisted he never lost confidence in his own abilities during his time out of the NBA after moving up into 11th place on the all-time scoring list.

Anthony landed a pull-up jumper in the fourth quarter of the Portland Trail Blazers' victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, the bucket carrying him past Hakeem Olajuwon to sit just outside the top 10 for points.

The 36-year-old finished with a team-high 26 points in a 125-121 triumph that sees Portland improve to 22-15 in the Western Conference. He is averaging 14.1 points for the season, his second with the franchise.

The third overall pick in 2003 appeared at one stage to be out of the league, playing just 10 games in the 2018-19 season. After failing to find a role with the Houston Rockets, he was subsequently waived by the Chicago Bulls following a trade.

While some may have believed his NBA time was up when he did not feature for just over a year, Anthony always retained the belief he could still have an impact at the highest level.

"I did give the people what they wanted, I was away from the game for a year and change, they wanted me to get out of the game and retire," Anthony told the media.

"You hear all that stuff, man. I've never lost confidence in myself. I've given this game too much to lose any kind of confidence out there.

"I believe in myself, if nobody else believes in me. That's the key - believing in yourself.

"I believe in my abilities, my skill level, my talent, my knowledge for the game of basketball, but also my love for the game of basketball. When you have all of that in one, nobody can take that joy away from you."

Anthony now has 26,955 points in a career that started with the Denver Nuggets. He joined the New York Knicks via a trade in 2011 and is seventh all-time in points scored for the franchise.

As for the all-time list, Elvin Hayes (27,313) occupies 10th position ahead of Anthony, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) sits top.

Asked about passing Hall of Fame center Olajuwon, Anthony replied: "I can't put it into words, it's a great feeling to know that I'm still able to do this and continue to have opportunities to move up on that list.

"Any time you can start creeping up on a top-10 list, that's when things start getting special. I'm here, I'm happy and I'm excited."

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